Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our “2000 AD” weekly review column! Every Wednesday we examine the latest offerings from Tharg and the droids over at Rebellion/2000 AD, the galaxy’s leading producers of Thrill-Power entertainment. Let’s get right to it!
THIS WEEK IN 2000AD
Judge Dredd: The Paradigm Shift Part 5
Credits Michael Carroll (script), Jake Lynch (art), John Charles (colors). Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Though it’s not a bad ending, the concluding chapter of ‘The Paradigm Shift’ abandons a lot of the more interesting questions it seemed to be asking. Michael Carroll ended both of the parallel stories in this arc with cation heavy chase scenes leaving much of the actual storytelling to Jake Lynch, John Charles and Annie Parkhouse. I will say though after a bit of thought about it that a moralistic “…and knowing is half the battle” type of ending would likely have been equally a bit unsatisfying. Maybe the problem was Carroll’s antagonists, they are little more then undeveloped cyphers particularly the terrorist in Dredd’s era. Dr. Cranston apparently had some kind of political agenda for his attack on the Judges academy but he remains a cardboard melodramatic presence never becoming a full character. Likewise even though the stakes got raised last week for the Judges of both eras, somehow this week there was no real feeling of risk in their actions despite explosions, the risk of bleeding out, attacks by nerve toxins, or anything else. The race to the end dulled any fear for their health. The finale comes out a more like actors going through the motions. The solutions seemed far too easy when all was said and done, and the recovery of the tablet fails to really have an impact when it happens.
Though some of Jake Lynch’s art this week was not to my tastes, I really can not fault the visual storytelling. His page layouts allowed for stories to be clearly told in parallel be compressed into five pages. The panel borders defined well if the action was happening in Dredd’s time or in Deacon’s. He got to play a lot with synchronicity and juxtaposition from like pairing a fiery car crash with a motorcycle racing up a rise or a question about the missing tablet with an image of one gloved hand passing it to another. I could take issue with the tires of Dredd’s Lawmaster being far too rounded and I could for sure the awkward positioning of Dredd’s body when he was escaping the Mo-Pad as those panels did throw me out of the story. That odd round tire appears again in the otherwise cool final juxtaposition between past and present drawing the eye again away from the rest of the otherwise cool scene.
Skip Tracer: Heavy Is The Head, Part Six
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (Colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Nolan Blake explores the world beneath the world in ‘Heavy is the Head, Part Six.’ Blake’s investigation has led him into tangled nest of piping, conduits, and shady street-vendors selling what could only loosely be defined as meat. The mystery that James Peaty has been spilling out over the last half-dozen strips takes second billing as Peaty and and Paul Marshall lean into their exploration of denizens of the Underneath.
Marshall has a blast with his character design as he populates the place with the various unlicensed mechs and splices that call it home. But what really comes across effectively is the look of discomfort worn on Blake’s face. There’s the queasy sickness as he takes a bite of strip – whatever that is – purchased from a vendor in return for some information about Zyn’s business in the area. Or the genuine look of fear as the vendor holds a quartet of rusted, filthy carving knives a bit too close to Blake’s nose while him imploring him to place an order. Peaty’s script has led Blake far from his element, and Marshall art marches lockstep to make sure we see every inch of it.
“Heavy is the Head, Part Six” sees Peaty and Marshall double-down on their world building. And the fact remains, even when Blake wraps up this case, there’s room for plenty more stories to be told within the cube. Both topside and in The Underneath.Continued below
Survival Geeks – ‘Geek-Con Part Four
Credits Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby(script) Neil Googe(art) Gary Caldwell(colors) Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Look, I like to think I have refined taste and appreciate the technical aspects of everything coming together when telling a story; and the conclusion to ‘Geek-Con’ has all those elements, as Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, and Neil Googe tidily squaring everything in 5 pages. But it also opens on our explorers questioning the use of the Riker Maneuver from ‘Best of Both Worlds Part II’ and that makes me giddy. Nerd pedantry: technically what they preform is the opposite of an evasive maneuver. The opening sequence and reference is still effective, however, because it is speaking in the language of pop culture and of course a stoner bro like Rufus would think of it that way. (Further nerd pedantry, the technical maneuver Rufus mean was the Riker Beta.)
The running Luke from A New Hope gag works on a similar level, but also has the nice byproduct of Googe placing Sam and Si in the middle of the page. It’s a simple and clean representation of what the teenage emotional angst of this arc was, while all the pop cultural craziness is going on around them. The decision to have Caldwell spotlight these pages in single color pink-blue dynamic further helps to isolate them from the ruckus and makes the ruptures in their moment land better. Just as they’re about to do something honest, it gets dashed in glorious fashion. Neil Googe’s page design in these five pages is the expected efficient plainly good storytelling. His layout of the page where Inspector Qui meets his fate is a great build as the final panel slowly seeps into everything else.
I’m looking forward to more “Survival Geeks” Rennie and Beeby do a real good job of using all 5 pages to setup and pay off moments in episodic strips and the series overall. There’s a consistency to it other strips waffle on at times.
Damned: The Fall Of Deadworld, Part Six
Credits: Kek-W (script), Dave Kendall (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: The dual narratives of “The Fall Of Deadworld” coalesce here for a calamitous situation. Kek-W has both sides assimilating their forces, with Casey on the side of the Judges building an army of Deadheads, presumably with the help of the Dark Sisters and without the knowledge of Psiren or Judge Dredd. It’s interesting having all these opposing forces on the same side, adding a Game Of Thrones level of intrigue with factions all with their own motives. Then, when we see Jess and her crew approaching the city, we get a nice little character moment with each of the crew to refresh us and make each one distinctive. Patti shuts down a remark quipped by one of the snide male crewmembers, a quick and easy reminder of her bad-girl behavior. We see more about how Horse has been covering his motives, and almost starts to act as a subtle mentor to Jess at the end of the sequence, developing intrigue and narrative smoothly.
Kendall once again stuns with a superb range of different environments and styles. His distinctive, almost watercolor-esque style is immediate from the first page, imagining a red-tinged future in which Casey’s stoner dreams are realised and he becomes lord of all with infinite snacks at his beck and call. Then we’re called back to the eerie green of the Judge’s outpost, with Kendall rendering his skinny, junkie frame as particularly fragile posed next to some vibrant broken glass. Then on the the very next page, we get a well focalised panel showing the Deadheads, nuclear-green skulls and all, filling up the panel to the edges to imply an endless number of them. And this is all in the first two pages. Kendall does a great sequence showing Patti’s reaction to the slimy male over three panels, with Patti’s visage unchanging as the eager predator decides this may have not been the best approach. Honestly, I could talk for pages about Kendall’s excellent work on this comic, but know this – this is the most stunning installment of “The Fall Of Deadworld” thus far.Continued below
Kek-W and Dave Kendall prove their prowess as storytellers once again on Part Six. Their mastery of intertwining narratives and beautiful transitions makes this one of the best packages out there.
Durham Red: Born Bad, Part 5
Credits: Elec Worley (script), Lee Carter (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Tom Shapira: “I did my best for that little boy. I stole for him, I starved for him, killed for him, did whatever I had to do to protect him. It weren’t my fault he turned out the way he did.” With these words Bootha, holding Durham Red tied to a chair, makes the implicit into explicit: if I originally believed the strip to be a rather straightforward nature vs. nurture what we get is actually a bit more fascinating. This is about other people justify their treatment of others because “they were always going to be that way” and whether it can be ever justified.
Durham Red is a predator of people, by design if not by choice. And whatever else she chooses to do this will always be part of her. So – is Bootha, and everyone else around her, justified in carrying crosses and arming themselves with stakes? Is the mutant mobster behind it all capable of true change or is he simply playing a longer con. These are interesting questions and ones that finally make me interested in this strip as more than an art showcase.
Not that the art is bad, mind. Even with Lee Carter taking over from Ben Whilsher mid-story, and scenery as limited as “tied to a chair in the basement” there’s still some nice solid stuff here – changing angles to keep things going, cutting back and forth to the forces gathering silently outside to build tension. Some odd facial work aside this is good storytelling. “Born Bad” is growing on me.